Mitt Romney’s nomination on August 30th as the Republican Nominee for President of the United States was a historic moment.
No, he wasn’t the first black or the first Catholic to head a major party ticket. He was the first Mormon. He made little fanfare of the moment, though others spoke on behalf of the Latter-Day Saints community.
Some have questioned President Obama’s faith and religion over the years. I’m not sure I remember without hitting Google what Barack Obama’s faith is.
Conversely, anyone paying attention knows that Mitt Romney and his family grew up as devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also referred to as “LDS” or “Mormon.”) He has served his church in leadership roles. His good deeds are many. His philanthropy and help to others is notable.
Now the highest-ranking elected member of the LDS Church, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), has made an attempt to discredit Romney using the public forum.
Senator Reid was calculated in choosing words that would be memorable, stating that Romney “sullied” the Mormon faith and “is not the face of Mormonism.” Reid said he was simply agreeing with a blogger from the Huffington Post who was upset at recent comments made by Mr. Romney regarding individuals who rely on government services. I guess he had forgotten Mitt’s help to others as part of his leadership roles in the Church.
I thought this was peculiar. So I asked a former member of Reid’s congregation who has attended his same ward for several years.
He told me that from the Church’s standpoint, Mr. Reid has done more of a disservice to himself than to Mitt Romney.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said “Normally in the Church, we are encouraged that if we have a disagreement with someone, we should meet with them to work it out. Taking things public is inappropriate.”
The source went on to say that he has seen a change in the Harry that he knew in the last few years.
“It’s sad because he’s not the same person I’m used to. He used to be good at keeping politics out of the discussion. Like Mitt Romney, he has done good deeds to help people in the Church, and he knows Mitt has, as well. This is uncharacteristic of him.
“The right thing to do would be to apologize and move on. There are many people who have defended Harry over the years who feel it’s hard to justify these comments. That’s because they cannot be defended.”
Kimberley Stewart, a small business owner and member of the LDS community who now lives in Menlo Park, California, also went to the same Mormon congregation as Senator Harry Reid when she lived in Washington, D.C. She too was surprised by Senator Reid’s remarks.
“It was so far out of line. His remarks were inexcusable because he knows Mitt Romney is a good person. He looks like the bully on the playground. I’ve never seen anyone in the Mormon Church publicly act like this. It is so against the teachings of our faith.”
“Senator Reid has always been soft-spoken at church, and this seemed out of character.” Kimberley recalled the love Senator Reid has for his wife Landra, whom Kimberley remembers fondly as “a stunning dresser – a woman so beautiful, sweet, and kind. I really admired her.”
“Harry Reid knows that we have responsibilities in our Church to take care of other people. Mitt Romney has done so many kind and generous things behind the scenes,” said Stewart. “His generosity is so well known in the LDS community. He has never put wealth before his beliefs and has always taken care of others.”
She fears that Reid will do whatever it takes to support his party and that party now comes before religion to Reid. While that made her sad, Stewart acknowledged that there will be Mormons who won’t vote for Mitt Romney; but she didn’t think that Reid had necessarily swayed anyone in the LDS community.
Elayne Harmer is a Senior Executive at Remember My Service Military Productions – a company that produces historical commemoratives for soldiers when they come home from deployment.
Elayne’s family is well known in both Utah and California. Her father-in-law, John Harmer, was Lieutenant Governor of California under Ronald Reagan. Her husband, David Harmer, a successful attorney, ran for Congress and lost by a fraction in 2010 to Democrat Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-CA). Her sister, Sharlene Hawkes, was Miss America in 1984; and her father was a General Authority for the LDS Church, the equivalent of Archbishop in the Catholic Church. The Harmers have four children and live in Bountiful, Utah.
“I have known Mitt Romney for 20 years and my family has known him for longer than that. My brother-in-law was a Bishop in a congregation (ward) in Mitt’s stake (similar to a Catholic diocese.) We’ve all heard about how charitable he has been and know the human stories about his compassion. There are many low-income families in Boston that Mitt Romney has personally helped.”
“I don’t know what to think,” said Harmer, about Reid’s attack. “There are plenty of Democrats in the Mormon Church – even in my own family. It’s true the majority of Utah Mormons are Republican, but there are plenty who are more liberal. They think Reid was wrong to say what he said. Brotherhood in a shared religion should trump politics.”
I asked about Mitt Romney’s role in the Church, and Elayne elaborated. “Mitt has held leadership positions in the Church and has a record of being a good, compassionate human being. Harry Reid hasn’t held these roles, so it seems peculiar that he’s casting stones at Mitt Romney. It would have been fine for him to disagree, but this is just not classy.”
Harmer went on to say, “I can’t imagine a fellow Christian saying these things. I’ve tried not to say bad things about Harry Reid, but the gloves are off right now. I see him as a partisan hack. If he’s going to put politics above a shared faith and claim that Mitt has sullied Mormonism just because he disagrees with him, to me that shows that he has thrown religion under the bus in favor of politics. He has betrayed us.”
“I base someone’s Christianity on their acts. I know Mitt Romney does charitable works for his fellow man. Impugning his character is just wrong and says a lot about Harry Reid’s character.”
This most recent Reid-ism isn’t the first time Harry Reid has challenged Romney’s character. On July 31st, Reid spread a false allegation he said was from a former Bain investor who said that Romney had not paid taxes for 10 years. That falsehood led to a rather curt reply from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in an interview with Nevada political journalist John Ralston.
“Of course Harry Reid wants to talk about that, because Harry Reid can’t talk about the fact that he’s presided over a Senate that hasn’t passed a budget for three years. I mean, he doesn’t want to talk about the substance of what affects real Americans’ lives. I do. And so does Mitt Romney.”
You can link to the video here.
It’s a sad statement in American politics when the highest-ranking elected Mormon uses a personal political agenda as his bully pulpit against another.
And what happens if Governor Romney becomes President Romney? Clearly, Reid’s act against Romney won’t promote bipartisanship or solve problems.
Sadly for Reid, it’s likely that his most recent trash-talk persona will be that for which he will be most remembered. If Harry Reid is truly a man of good character, he can save face now by apologizing to Mitt Romney. Otherwise, this act will stand as a permanent blemish on his long and “distinguished” record in Congress.
This article originally appeared at ThoughtfulWomen.org.
Photo Credit: Talk Radio News Service (Creative Commons)